How To… Apply For Your First Job!

22 Jun

I make no secret of the fact that I’m an honest-to-goodness grown woman and I still work at the mall. This isn’t because I’m an epic failure of a human being; it’s due to a combination of things (lack of opportunity, choosing the road less travelled and getting my degree later in life, still not knowing what I want to be when I grow up…). So, while I’m probably not the best go-to source for professional advice, I suspect that I’m a veritable font of wisdom when it comes to young people out there who are just beginning the search for their first job. Trust me, the people who accept your resume when you drop it off for a manager do read it over, and they do examine it (and you!) with a critical eye. Here’s a list of five common rookie mistakes, and what you can do to avoid them…

1) Not being dressed appropriately. 

It’s a sad fact of life that people do judge you based on the image you present to the world. I’m not saying it’s fair, or even that it’s right, but if someone comes into the store asking for a job and they’re dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, it gives the impression that they don’t care enough to put any effort in. You don’t need to be dressed as nicely as you would for an actual interview, but you should definitely try to appear professional. Try to avoid anything too casual (no t-shirts, sweats, or baseball caps) or anything that shows too much skin (your pencil skirt isn’t considered “professional looking” if the back is slit up to your bum!). Jeans are okay as long as the wash is dark, they have no holes, and they’re in a classic style (no skinnies, please!).    
2) Coming in with your friend… or mom!

It might not seem like a big deal, lending moral support to a friend… but trust me, the people who apply in tag teams never get called in for an interview at my store. Why not? Because it shows a lack of independence and confidence. If you really feel like you can’t go it alone, walk around with your friends while you look for places to apply, but make sure they stay outside of the store until after you have dropped your resume off… even if all they’re doing is coming in to shop!  

3) Not being polite. 

This ought to be such a no-brainer, but I’ve seen more than one person come in and be really rude to the person who’s taking their resume! In the very least, remember to smile and say please and thank you.

4) Not being yourself!

The applicants who really stand out are the ones who aren’t afraid to show a little bit of personality when they come in. Talk a little bit about why you’re applying at this particular place… it never hurts to show a little enthusiasm! Don’t be worried that you won’t give a good impression… sure, you might not fit in at every place you apply, but do you really want to get stuck working at a place where you have to pretend to be someone you’re not every single day?  

5) Not formatting your resume correctly.

A lot of the time, there will be no manager on duty when you’re dropping a resume off. This means that your resume is the first point of contact that they have with you. As much as an over-casual outfit can make a bad first impression, so too can a poorly formatted resume. Some tips to keep in mind:

– Pick one font and stick with it. Make sure it’s a font that’s easy to read on the printed page. 

– Don’t make your font incredibly small because you’re trying to fit a lot of information in a small amount of space. If your information takes up more than two pages, it doesn’t mean you should set your font size to 9… it means you need to edit! 

– A one-page resume is fine, but if you do use two pages, remember to staple them before you give it out! 

– Don’t use bright coloured fonts. If this is your first resume, you might want to avoid colour altogether as it’s tricky to use correctly. If you do want to incorporate colour, you could try using it around your name in order to make it stand out… but stick to classic colours like navy blue. Skip the hot pink for now. 

– Try to give the page an overall sense of “balance.” If your left margin is one inch, for example, you don’t want to have three inches of white space running down the right hand side. 

– Try to show how your previous experience is relevant to the job you’re asking for. If you don’t have much experience, you might be tempted to put every babysitting job you’ve ever had on your resume. That’s okay, but rather than listing each job individually, put them all under one heading (i.e. “babysitter”) and then list the relevant skills you developed while working in that position. A babysitter might, for example, be responsible for picking kids up from school, which means you are probably punctual and reliable.   

– A lot of places that are suited to “first job” experiences don’t require you to include a cover letter, but if you choose to have one, be sure to tailor it to the specific place you’re applying. It’s obvious when you’ve written a general cover letter that’s meant to be passed out to a bunch of different places, and it comes off as lazy. 

– Start building your references now! Using family friends is fine, but if you can get a teacher or guidance counsellor to vouch for you, all the better! 

Honestly, getting a job in a shop like the one I work at is one part right-place-at-the-right-time (if we’ve just finished hiring for the season, you won’t be getting the call no matter how awesome you are), and two parts selling yourself. Remember to try to impress all the staff, too, not just the manager… after all, we’re the ones who have to work with you!



One Response to “How To… Apply For Your First Job!”

  1. Katie June 25, 2009 at 2:54 pm #

    If I could add to this as well…

    -Don't have your mom drop off your resume because you wanted to go out and have fun with your friends. You want the job, you do the leg work.

    -The early bird gets the worm. Seriously, if you're out there pounding the pavement at 9am resumes fresh from your printer and looking sharp, people take notice. Also that's the best time to catch the managers. Someone needs to open the office and it's usually the person you need to talk to. Don't show up at 8pm at night, we're tired and you're just another customer at that point. If you're in school, go right after school.

    -If you really want that job, if you really think you're great for that position, then don't take no for an answer. A friend of mine went through a series of interviews and then never heard back, so she went back in and demanded to know why they thought she wasn't right for the position. For every reason they gave her she proved it wrong. So they had yet ANOTHER interview with her right then and there and she was hired. 2 1/2 years later, she is one of their best employees. But remember, there's a fine line between determination and harassment.

    Excellent post Bex! xo

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